Parenthood is a juggle for most families but I think it’s even more of a juggle when one child in the family has additional needs. It’s hard trying to be everything to everyone in the family and not feeling like siblings are missing out at times. I’ve written about this topic before and you can read my thoughts on it here. AJ and BJ have an amazing bond and I think this comes from a mixture of things, including their personalities, the time we spend as a family doing fun activities and the time we give to each of the ‘kids’ separately. We’ve always done our best to ensure BJ has opportunities and I only think it’s fair to do the same for AJ. If you follow along on our Facebook page you’ll see each school holiday I try and take her away for a short trip by herself. Our latest was to Cairns.
Up until BJ was around 10 years of age we could manage most situations including a small number of stairs and various types of accommodation. As he has grown up we’ve needed to look for more fully accessible experiences. So, from when AJ was 3 years of age she’s always taken ramps and been by BJ’s side in our adventures. Our trips tend to be tailored to his needs though we try and include activities for all. BJ tends to set the pace. Although AJ likes a sleep in, we are all up early because BJ needs to be out and about early in the day. AJ wouldn’t mind some quite time lounging by a pool or on the beach but BJ is keen to be on the go all the time.
We’ve of course given BJ the idea he shouldn’t miss out on things so he now lives by that motto and doesn’t like AJ doing things without him. AJ doesn’t like to see him miss out so she tends to stay with him instead of doing things like snorkelling or paddle boarding while he waits on the shore. I’m sure there are many siblings who do similar. But there needs to be a balance.
I love AJ’s accommodating nature but we feel it’s nice to show her our appreciation by tailoring some occasions to her. Sometimes it will be an outing in Sydney, a pyjama day at home or a show she is keen to see. I particularly like to have time away with AJ where the getaway is tailored to her interests. I can give her my full attention and time to try new things. Our Cairns break was only 6 days but they were blissful.
We hiked, snorkelled, fossicked on the beach, chatted and sang along to Ed Sheeran while relaxing on the beach. We laughed loudly (me) and enjoyed each other’s company (both). We played a board game, shared earphones while watching a movie on the iPad, sat sipping drinks while the sunset on Fitzroy Island (mocktail for AJ and cocktail for me.) You get the idea, it was companionable and time to really bond. It was lovely doing activities with AJ which we couldn’t do if travelling as a family.
I was also conscious that she was experiencing a mother who was more relaxed and less tired. A mother who had more time and was focused on her. The time away did us both a lot of good. I had been feeling run down, frustrated and a little buried in paperwork at home. The NDIS has provided us with funding for support workers but it’s been incredibly frustrating finding workers. Advocating and ensuring BJ has a good, full and engaged life, while surviving on unending sleepless nights, had taken a toll on me. The time away has returned my fight and left me feeling fresh again.
We were both happy to return to our ‘boys’ and it was lovely to be together again as a family of four. We’ll continue to look forward to our family adventures but I hope giving AJ some time out and time one-on-one will help her understand all her consideration for us is appreciated.
Let me know in comments or over on Facebook how you juggle your family’s needs.